MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL — 59-year-old Maria Elena Pailden grew up with a disability that many would believe is a hindrance to leading and helping others. She could not walk.

But for Elena, her disability is not an unfortunate condition, but rather an advantage to help her community in the municipality of Sinacaban, this province.

Elena has started volunteering for Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi CIDSS) way back in 2011, after serving as one of the municipality’s councilors.

Spearheaded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Kalahi-CIDSS empowers community people to participate in the development of their barangays. This project gives them the opportunity to identify and implement whatever sub-projects they believe can ease poverty in their locality.

Since the project requires teams to implement a sub-project, Elena was identified by her neighbors to chair their Barangay Sub-project Management Committee (BSPMC) – a group of community volunteers in charge of overseeing the concreting of 320-meter road in Barangay Poblacion.

According to Ellen Paulo, the area coordinator for Kalahi-CIDSS in Sinacaban, the people in Poblacion named her as the chair of their BSPMC because they see that she can lead and influence her neighbors to participate. “She has the ability to see things in a wider perspective, and she lives by principle,” Paulo says.

Through Elena’s efforts in making sure that they complete the concreting of the barangay road, she and her team was able to complete the road at 420 meters – a hundred-meter more than its proposal. According to her, it was the team’s lobbying and determination that has enabled them to accomplish such.

Today, the barangay road is being used by the public and is maintained by the Kalahi-CIDSS volunteers through its operation and maintenance team.

Elena says that although Kalahi-CIDSS takes so much of her time and effort, she is still able to give quality time for her husband and her two adopted daughters. “Yes, although I am like this physically, I am still able to take care of two beautiful children. One is now happily living in London, and the other one is now attending school here in Sinacaban,” she proudly shares.

Asked what makes her happy despite her physical condition, she replied, “It is the thought that I am able to help my neighbors and my community. I am happy that although my movement is limited, my passion to serve is not.”

Written by Charmaine P. Tadlas, DSWD